Studies show outdoor play time is vital to a child’s health and well-being. Thanks to these 30 sweet and simple ideas, your kiddos will be begging to get outside for some fun in the sun. Just scroll down for our ultimate list of ways to make the most of the long summer days.
1. Have a water balloon fight. For an extra refreshing battle, stick them in a fridge before letting the kids go to town.
2. Camp out. Whether you pitch a tent in your own back yard or head to one of these incredible camping spots around the country, you'll be making memories by the bushel. Not sure you want to commit to an overnight? Set up camp during the day in your own yard or at a park, and pack it up when twilight falls.
3. Set up a science lab in your driveway or on the sidewalk. Need inspiration? Plenty of these awesome activities are perfect for cooler weather, too!
4. Turn on the hose and get wet. With these easy and fun outdoor water games, you'll breeze right through the hottest summer days with satisfied kiddos.
5. Go for a PJ Walk. If you're lucky enough to live where the summers are mild, then great! If not, let them pair some sneakers with their sleepwear and head out for an early morning walk, before the temperatures start to climb.
6. Create beautiful outdoor art. From squirt gun abstracts to colander spin art masterpieces, these outdoor art projects are easy to clean up and guarantee hours of creative fun.
7. Make nature soup. Grab a bucket or bowl, let your kids gather their "ingredients," and then hand them the hose. They'll be dishing up the goods for hours.
8. Play tag! It doesn’t get any easier than tag when your kids need to burn some energy outside. Name someone as “it” and leave the rest up to them. All they need is an open space and some cool clothes to get this game going.
9. Blow bubbles. After your morning walk, you deserve a rest! Blow bubbles for the kiddos while they get a final burst of energy out after your walk (and you can finish your coffee).
10. Play Star Wars with sticks. We know. Sticks. But are they really that different than the $60 light saber they're begging for their birthdays? Nah. Feeling creative? Use craft tape or paint to decorate them.
11. Break out the binoculars. Make a pine cone birdfeeder with peanut butter and birdseed, then find a nearby spot to spy on what comes to eat with binoculars.
12. Make a mud pie. Or 20. Decorate them with leaves, acorns, and rocks. Then sell them to someone’s little brother.
13. Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Wondering what to look for? We've got printables right here!
14. Play pickup sticks with sticks from the yard. Whether you go all out and paint the sticks you collect different colors or just leave them be, this old-school game gets new legs with a larger-than-life game board—your yard!
15. Hit a festival. These wacky summer festivals will make you want to pack your bags and yell "road trip!"
16. Play red light, green light. Did that last five minutes? Check out these classic yard games to keep the party going.
17. Go geocaching. When the wiggles hit, load up the kids for a real-life treasure hunt in the great outdoors. Follow high-tech clues left by geocachers when you download the app that tracks treasures hidden all over the world. Not sure where to begin? Try this step-by-step guide.
18. Set up a lemonade stand. They'll hardly notice how hot it is outside when they're manning a lemonade booth! Not a huge lemon fan? Check out some other ideas here.
19. Play leapfrog. Because it may actually be faster than getting them to walk quickly.
20. Build forts. Scavenge fallen branches and pine tree boughs to build a teepee, or try one of these incredible (and totally doable) forts that you can build together. Or, find a bush or a tree with low-hanging branches and use its canopy as your fort roof.
21. Set up an outdoor treasure hunt. Set your kids free in the backyard to seek out hidden treasures. They’ll have a blast trying to find little trinkets you’ve hidden beforehand.
22. Set out on a hike. Sometimes, a walk in the woods is just what everyone needs. Find a clear trail or lace up those boots at a state or city park, forest preserve or nearby open space that gives them plenty of room to roam. These incredible hikes are our favorites across the nation.
23. Call some friends and have a field day. You'll be amazed at how something as simple as these easy outdoor games will keep kids entertained. They'll only want to go inside for a bathroom break.
24. Try tracking. Wow them with what lurks in the backyard on a summer night. Wet a bed sheet and spread it out flat on your lawn, near the most wooded area. When critters cross it, they'll leave their footprints (and sometimes more).
25. Stargaze. The summer sky is the perfect spot to check out these 21 new constellations. Just bundle up before you go!
26. Hunt for lightning bugs. There's really not much more pure and simple summer fun as spying a lightning bug at twilight. Start your search near bushes and grassy areas, where they'll make their first appearances. Just be sure to release them before bedtime!
27. Create a reading nook outdoors. Make summer reading sensational with a cozy hammock under the tree branches or a blanket by a garden. Check out these ideas to get them excited about their reading list.
28. Make s’mores. These camping classics are a must for summer. Build a fire in a safe spot and roast marshmallows or sip lemonade outside. Foodies in the family? Check out these delish s'mores recipes.
29. Paint rocks. Want to do more than jazz up your garden path with colorfully painted rocks? Check out these reasons to paint a rock for kindness. Join a movement!
30. Head to an unstructured play space. Kids will happily head out to discover something new. If you're lucky enough to live near one of these amazing unstructured outdoor play spaces, you can consider your summer complete.
—Shelley Massey & Gabby Cullen